Hevea brasiliensis  (Willd. ex A. Juss.) Müll.Arg. – Rubber  – Euphorbiaceae

The Yagua use the decorative poisonous seeds of the rubber tree, Hevea brasiliensis, in their necklaces.  The husks, too, are used as beads.  Fruits are three-lobed capsules containing large mottled seeds similar to castor beads.  The rubber tree grows most densely in the watershed of the Amazon and Orinoco rivers.  Europeans first herd about rubber (from the tree’s latex) as an unnamed plaything of the Mexican Aztecs.  It was a strange substance, soft yet resilient, from which the Central American Indians fashioned balls, torches and water-tight implements.  Hev was the native name for rubber in the Andean region and was the basis for the tree’s generic name.  “Caoutchouc” was the French name given to the tree’s latex that Guiana Indians used.

In 1770 an English chemist discovered that the gum would rub out pencil marks.  He called the strange substance rubber, by which name it has been known in English ever since.

 

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